Interview with CONNECT THE CIRCLE

Norwegian metal purveyors Connect the Circle have a new album coming out. In an interview for Progarchy, Arild Fevang (vocals) and Kenneth Brastad (guitars) tell us about the creative process behind new release, challenges, and more.

You have a new album with Connect the Circle entitled Mother of Evil. How do you feel about the release? 

Arild: I’m very excited about it, and hopefully people are going to enjoy it as much as we do!

Kenneth: I’m proud! This is the first time I’ve been 100% satisfied with everything. Recording sessions, music, mix, master, cover art, lyrics…everything. Mother Of Evil truly represent Connect The Circle in 2021. This is us… like it or not, I’m still proud!

Where does the new record stand comparing the debut album—last year’s This is Madness?

Arild: I think it’s a natural step forward. This Is Madness was our first record together and we have grown to know each other a bit better this time around. We spent more time on the whole process, and we’ve added strings, organ etc. to broaden our sound. It’s more epic, I guess.

Kenneth: Musically this album is a tad more progressive and probably a bit more “heavy metal” than our debut album, I guess. But at the same time more melodic too. The biggest difference is the result of incorporating strings, organ, piano, synth, acoustic guitars etc. We wanted something bigger and more epic. So, if you compare this album with our debut, the main difference will be…Bigger & more epic.

How much of a challenge was it to work on Mother of Evil?

Arild: It was a challenge, because we knew it had to be better than This Is Madness, but I never doubted that we would reach that goal…and I believe we have.

Kenneth: We have matured as composers/writers. We worked our way through the “trial & error phase” with “This Is Madness”. Suddenly we had a common view regarding where to go and what to do when we started writing the material that ended up on “Mother Of Evil”, especially me and Arild.

We probably learned a lot about each bandmember as a person during this recording session, and that became some sort of a new challenge. When we recorded “This Is Madness” everything was new. The band was new, we hardly knew Arild, we had never been in the studio together as a band, so we were probably a bit too nice with each other. Too polite in a matter of speaking… This time around we disagreed and argued. If we had an idea or an opinion, we fought for it. Not just during the recording sessions, but during the pre-production on how to arrange the songs and how and where to include strings, organ, accordion, sound effects etc. and the post-production with Peter Michelsen during the mix and Tom Kvaalsvoll regarding the Mastering process. Suddenly everybody had an opinion about this or that, and we had to find a solution to that problem during this process. It was difficult, but I believe we ended up being as fair as possible to everyone involved. A lot of the decisions were made by voting. And if we were 2 vs 2, we included our Co-producer Peter Michelsen regarding that decision. I guess it became a bigger challenge than we expected, but we learned a lot and failed several times too. We were more mature when we started working on “Mother Of Evil” compared to “This Is Madness”, but we are going to be even more mature the next time around.

Speaking of challenges, have you sent any in the early phase of what has become the final result?

Kenneth: No. Our music is constantly changing all the way up to the final recording. It’s kind of a back and forth, back and forth process to create a final product that represent the entire story. If someone heard the first draft of “Flat Moon Army” or “1519” they probably wouldn’t be able to recognize those songs at all.

We always keep it to ourselves. A few of our closest family and friends have heard some of the early work, but no one have a copy of any of the songs yet. Not even the guest musicians on the album. In other words, no bootlegs available he he.

Tell me about the topics you explore on these new songs?

Arild: It’s about rage, space, revenge, conquest, fake news, digital shades, bravery, and hope.

Kenneth: The topics are madness, sadness, war, stupidity and sci-fi! Arild writes all the lyrics, but it’s usually a twisted tale of some sort of tragedy. I’ve learned about some weird tragedies involving mass murderers like Becky Cotton (The Legend Of Becky Cotton) & John Gilbert Graham (Mother Of Evil) through his lyrics. It’s not a tribute as a deranged fan or something, just a true story from the real world presented in a theatrical way.

The biggest difference is the story behind “When The King Cried”. It’s a true story of a tragedy that happened in Norway on July the 22nd 2011, where 77 people were killed during an act of terror done by one single maniac! A month later the king of Norway spoke to the whole nation about this horrible event during a live TV-broadcast where he also started to cry, and the whole nation cried together with him that day…

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What is your opinion about the progressive rock/metal scene in 2021?

Arild: I believe it’s better than ever. Pioneers like Dream Theater recently landed at #52 on the USA Billboard Top 200 with their new album. That’s not bad for a prog-metal band. And the scene is full of new and exciting bands as well. Just the other day I discovered a great band from Norway called Connect The Circle, you should really check them out, ha-ha.

Kenneth: I love it! I am an old prog-rock/metal fan! I was sold the first time I heard Dream Theater with “Under A Glass Moon” in 92, and I got that same feeling when I heard “A View From The Top Of The World” a few weeks ago.

I’m an old fan of bands like DT, Rush, Genesis, Yes, Kansas, Symphony X etc. but I really love the “new” bands too. Bands like Jack The Joker, Caligula’s Horse, Tesseract, Periphery, Haken, In Vain, Textures, Leprous etc. are also a true inspiration to me and my guitar playing. I always try to check out their latest albums as soon as possible, but I feel like the prog-metal scene is growing these days and it is hard to keep up with all the new bands. It is hard to even keep up with my fav-bands and their new albums.

Some of my personal 2021 prog-favorites so far is: Jinjer’s Wallflowers, Soen’s Imperial, Dream Theater’s AVFTTOTW, and Gojira’s Amazonia.

Let me know about your influences—the artists that in a way shaped and continue to shape the music of Connect the Circle.

Arild: That list is very long, and I listen to a lot of different types of music, so everything from Queen, Roy Orbison, Deep Purple, Genesis, David Bowie, Savatage, Badfinger, Nevermore, Rival Sons, A Perfect Circle and Sam Cooke to Enslaved, I guess.

Kenneth: Oh, that’s a hard one. I have been influenced by so many different bands and musicians while growing up. But some of the bands/artists that has inspired me the most throughout the years in general and since we formed CTC must be Dream Theater, Steve Vai, Ayreon, In Flames, Gojira, Nevermore, Deep Purple, Extreme & Annihilator… and probably Opeth too.

What are your top 5 records of all time?

Arild: Impossible to answer, but here’s five great ones.

1. Chris de Burgh – Spanish Train

2. David Coverdale – Northwinds

3. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

4. Rainbow – Rising

5. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker  

Kenneth: My top 5 changes all the time based on my mood on that day. But I can choose 5 random albums from my top 50 list.

1: Dream Theater – Scenes From A Memory

2: Symphony X – Underworld

3: Ayreon – Y (01011001)

4: Extreme – Pornografitti

5: ARK – Burn The Sun

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the near future?

Arild: Our bass player, Raymond Smith, left the band a few months ago so we’ve been busy doing auditions lately. As soon as we are back on our feet again (and it won’t be long) we will get back out there and do gigs, and we can’t wait! Besides that, we are a hard-working band and we’re always busy writing new stuff and planning for the future. We are hoping to tour outside Norway as well in 2022, but it all depends on Covid-19. Fingers crossed.

Kenneth: A new bandmember, to play at the awesome festival “Winter Metal Fest” here in Norway (January 28-29th 2022) together with great bands like Tungsten, Ignea, Kalidia, Shakra, Frozen Crown and many, many more! Play live again, write new music & start working on the pre-production regarding our next album.

Raymond (ex-bass player) recently left the band, so we can’t conquer the world just yet. [laughs]

Any words for the potential new fans?

Arild: Don’t bother listening to our music once. Give it a few times and it will grow on you, and stick with you, I promise.

Kenneth: As I mentioned earlier, if you want to check us out, you must dive into the lyrics and the music at the same time. Our music is a theatrical journey, and the whole intention is to give you an emotional real-life story. Something worth remembering as a fact. Do you know the distance between our planet and mars? Well… if you don’t, check out our latest single.

Thoughts?

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